European League of Shooting Yourself In The FootBalls

For those of you that haven’t heard, the (European) world of football was thrown into disarray for 48 hours in April 2021 when a small number of super-rich club owners decided they didn’t like the current rules and they wanted to write their own, forming a breakaway pact of sorts to establish a new competition.

To say it went down badly would be understating it somewhat.

Furious and immediate backlash from supporters, of both the clubs concerned and those clubs excluded from the plans, as well as club managers and staff being kept in the dark until moments before the announcement, combined with threats of government intervention all conspired to a speed of turnaround that VAR officials could only dream of.

Extraordinarily in their claims, the main protagonists cited the notion that the game was too long (90mins) for young people to engage with, and that 16-24 year olds simply don’t engage or watch the game any longer. The source of these claims remains a mystery.

All in all an episode about out of touch billionaire club owners acting with scant regard for their supporters or players wishes, nor with any respect for glorious club heritage (yes, even you City) and their role in the communities they represent.

But if anything it’s a wonderful example of why product research and customer / consumer research is so essential. Why understanding your audience is so critical, no matter what your business, and no matter how untouchable you have convinced yourself you or your brand have become. However you go about it – through more quantitative methods such as analysis existing customer demographics, more qualitative customer feedback analysis, or external consumer research to test and perfect the changes you think the market will lap up feverishly – at the very least you owe it to yourself and those that continue to support your business; staff, customers, investors, to do at least the basics in testing and analysing your market and potential – especially when the consequences of getting it wrong and failing are so extraordinarily huge it could end careers.

We’ve never had more access to data – no matter what your line of business. Make sure you use it, or at least try to use it. Be aware of who your audience is, what they look like, and try – at least try – to comprehend what might be driving the decisions they’re making. Getting it wrong is not as bad as never bothering to consider it. In the ESL statements and proclamations there was no mention of the way over the last 2-3 decades, with other “improvements” the game has seen such as the founding of the Premier League, the game has effectively priced younger and lower income people out of the game. So you also need to be careful when you’re preparing your own hypotheses too. Interpretation of whatever data you’re using is often more art than science, and it is essential you seek contrary opinions too, not just those that will support your own.

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